always desired; the life of her father and mother, the life of her childhood. Yes, she would marry Fred in spite of all, only--something at that moment seemed to take her by the throat--William had come between her and that life. If she had not met him at Woodview long ago; if she had not met him in the Pembroke Road that night she went to fetch the beer for her mistress's dinner, how different everything would have been! If she had met him only a few months later, when she was Fred's wife!

Wishing she might go to sleep, and awake the wife of one or the other, she fell asleep to dream of a husband possessed of the qualities of both, and a life that was neither all chapel nor all public-house. But soon the one became two, and Esther awoke in terror, believing she had married them both.


CHAPTER XXIX

IF Fred had said, 'Come away with me,' Esther would have followed him. But when she called at the shop he only spoke of his holiday, of the long walks he had taken, and the religious and political meetings he had attended. To this talk Esther listened vaguely; and there was in her mind unconscious regret that he was not a little different. Little irrelevant thoughts came upon her. She would like him better if he wore coloured neckties and a short jacket; she wished half of him away--his dowdiness, his sandy-coloured hair, the vague eyes, the black neckties, the long loose frockcoat. But his voice was keen and ringing, and when listening her heart always went out to him, and she felt that she might entrust her life to him. But he didn't seem to understand her, and day by day, against her will, the thought gripped her more and more closely that she could not separate Jackie from his father. She would have to tell Fred the whole

-239-

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